OCEANSIDE — A consent-based sitting on San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) spent fuel storage was held in Oceanside last Wednesday. David Victor, chair of the SONGS Community Engagement Panel, and Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern, a panel member, led the meeting.
The sitting meeting’s focus was to reach consensus on a location for permanent spent fuel storage, which has seen delays.
The first meeting asked for community input.
John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for the national Office of Nuclear Energy, and Andrew Griffith, associate deputy assistant secretary for national Fuel Cycle Technologies, answered stakeholders’ questions via speakerphone.
Concerns were aired on fuel storage, oversight checks and balances, and transporting spent fuel to a permanent storage site.
Daniel Dominguez, executive board member of Utility Workers Union of America Local 246, and one of the 3,500 workers who maintain SONGS spent nuclear fuel, said spent fuel is currently extremely safe in wet and dry onsite storage. He added temporary off site dry cask storage would be safer, and the safest place for spent fuel is permanent off site dry cask storage.
A big difference between wet storage and dry cask storage is that dry casks do not require ongoing fans and pumps to cool the fuel. Long term off site storage adds the assurance of a geologically sound location.
Dominguez said the important question for him is when will the federal government take responsibility for SONGS spent fuel. Currently the agreement is for the federal government to assume responsibility when fuel is in permanent storage.
The push is to have the government agree to own responsibility during temporary storage, which may happen sooner.
Sites in New Mexico and Texas are in the process of securing permits to operate temporary storage facilities, which may serve as a future home for SONGS spent fuel. Paperwork to open the facilities is expected to be in hand in two to three years.
The shared goal of stakeholders is to move spent fuel away from its current geologically unstable, densely populated location as soon as possible.
Future sitting meetings will develop a framework for stakeholders to work with consultants, gain information and clarification, and work together to find a solution to store spent fuel.
Sitting meetings are held across the country to address permanent storage of commercial and defense nuclear waste.
A SONGS Community Engagement Panel meeting was also held on June 22.